In more positive news, the WRAP retail survey also found that a quarter of all pre-packed unprepared produce now carries no date label
More than 20% of food products on sale in UK stores had just two days or less on their sell-by date remaining, according a report published by UK-based circular economy charity the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP).
This comes as part of the organisation’s latest retail survey looking at the progress stores have made to cut household food waste.
The research, where the charity visited nearly sixty supermarkets and examined 2,000 food products, also found that a quarter of all pre-packed unprepared produce now carries no date label.
Director of WRAP Peter Maddox said: “The way food and drink is packaged, labelled and priced can influence household food waste, and retailers and brands are uniquely placed to help minimise food waste in the home.
“Our research shows that people want clear, consistent information on pack to help them keep food fresher for longer.
“Overall, we’ve seen good progress from all, but we have also been very clear with each company where more work is required, and where they are falling short.”
Stop the phrase ‘Freeze on Day of Purchase’ on packaging, says WRAP
During its survey, WRAP found a 1.5 day increase in shelf-life for milk, which could help reduce the amount of the product wasted by more than 20,000 tonnes a year.
Alongside this, almost all products had the correct storage advice, with the charity’s own Blue Fridge logo — indicating foods which can stay fresher for longer when refrigerated — gaining increased prominence.
There has also been an increase in the use of the snowflake logo — informing the consumer that a product is suitable for freezing — going from 15% to nearly 50%.
Particular growth of this logo was seen on bread items, where usage doubled to 79%.
Despite this progress, WRAP says more action is needed in areas such as guidance for bagged salad, which typically has a very conservative lifespan and could be extended.
Alongside this, the organisation wants the phrase “Freeze on Day of Purchase” to be removed from packaging, as it can lead people to throw away good food instead of freezing it up until the date marked.
Maddox said: “Public concern has grown over plastic packaging since our last survey, particularly around fresh produce, and we have updated our guide to address single-use, problematic plastics in this category.
“Removal of packaging must be done carefully to avoid food waste, and we now we have a clear set of principles that will help limit plastic use, and ensure removal is done in a safe and sustainable way.
“The other significant development we recommend is removing best before dates from uncut fresh produce where this doesn’t risk increasing food waste, and the guidance helps this decision-making.
“We see this being particularly useful for commonly wasted items like potatoes.”
WRAP, alongside non-ministerial government organisation the Food Standards Agency and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, has also updated its guidance on applying date labels and packaging choices for fresh produce.
This advice includes having a range of pack sizes and formats including loose foods, as well as removing a best before date for some fresh produce, which encourages people to use their own judgement.